I am currently working on a project that is being commissioned by Lone Star College–Montgomery for an event led by an organization called VDAY. VDAY is a global protest against violence against women and Lone Star College is hosting the event on Valentines Day. The piece I’m writing will be played by my friend, Reese Burgan, who is also Lone Star’s saxophone professor.
Over the past five months I’ve been heavily researching how artists who create political or social work approach the process when they cannot directly relate to the issue or experience. It’s been really important for me to recognize that as a white male, raised and supported from a family that was able to make my childhood and early adulthood comfortable, I have a privilege that should be addressed. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about whether it’s right for me to create art that tries to capture a situation that I’m distanced from and if it’s okay to use privilege to help others by spreading awareness and knowledge through my art. The answer is by no means black and white. What I’m learning is that it’s best for my artistic voice to narrate the situation or be an object which carries the authentic voices from people within these communities. Even this technique sometimes walks a very fine line and I have to search for another approach. Though I will never fully understand the struggles of these communities, I want to stand with them, be a voice for their cause, and help spread awareness to others.
When Reese first approached me with the project, I was really uncomfortable with the idea that this work for VDAY would be created by a male composer and a male performer. Unfortunately, we both know many women that have been victims of verbal, physical, or sexual abuse and this trend is magnified within society. But I don’t want this work to solely become a projected observation from the eyes of men. I believe that the message attached to this project will be most authentic and meaningful if it’s crafted from both women and men.
I want this project to narrate the reality of society’s wrongful pardoning of men who physically, verbally, and/or sexually abuse women. And it’s more than just a pardoning, but also a conscious awareness of this crime that is intentionally blindsided and denied as being inappropriate and criminal. I plan on constructing the work from inspiration from Maya Angelou’s, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, quotations from composer Hildegard von Bingen’s Columba Aspexit, sang by Carolyn Balkovetz, recorded audio of women speaking about the current issue described above, quotations from a work by Carlo Gesualdo (renaissance composer who brutally murdered his own wife and faced little punishment). The problem with much art that is similar to this project is that it tends to only focus on the perpetrator and even though its intentions are good, the victims end up becoming a dehumanized object. I want to address the crime, but more importantly, have the voice of this community of women projected through the work.
If you are interested in participating in the recording or know someone else who would be interested, please read and fill out the form provided! Your contributions will remain anonymous to myself and the audience. If you have any comments or questions, please reach out to me and share your thoughts on this project!